By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
"You've already given me your answer — we won't discuss that anymore," Penner told LaCoe. "I will obey your rules. Let's not discuss it. I'm hungry."
On Thanksgiving, Penner sent what would seem like a valedictory e-mail to LaCoe and Diana: "I want to thank you for your friendship. It's meant the world to me."
The next night, he put on a blue long-sleeved shirt, black jeans and black-and-white Adidas sneakers, got in his Camry in the garage beneath his apartment and breathed carbon monoxide until he died.
It was a year to the day after his divorce had been finalized.
"Christine died of a broken heart," Diana says. "She wasn't confused about whether she was meant to be a woman. Any other reading of the situation is disrespectful to her memory."
Mike Penner and Christine Daniels had separate funerals. Penner was laid to rest in Orange County in an event closed to media but populated by dozens of journalist colleagues. A group of Daniels' transgender friends tried to attend but were turned away at the door for not being on the guest list, a concept the Rev. Thomas says hearkened back to the darkest days of the 1980s, when gay friends and even lovers of someone who had died of AIDS were similarly refused.
"That is why we decided to do a memorial service here at MCC for the folks who needed closure," Thomas says of the second, far more public remembrance of Daniels, covered extensively by the local gay media.
Amy LaCoe was the sole transgender friend of Mike Penner's who was invited to the Orange County funeral. The eulogies acknowledged the existence of Christine, and speakers noted that both Mike and Christine were consistently kind, loving people.
As LaCoe was leaving, Penner's brother John stopped her to hug her; he said he doubted Penner would have lived as long as he did were it not for her care.
And then, something startling occurred. As she walked by Dillman, who had never met any of Penner's transgender friends, the ex-wife halted another conversation to greet LaCoe.
"I know what you did for Mike and I just want to thank you," Dillman said. She gripped LaCoe's hand with what LaCoe describes as a "very warm, two-handed handshake."
"You're really welcome," LaCoe replied. "I'm sorry I couldn't do more."
The two women cried together for a moment, then LaCoe walked on.
Note: A story published Aug. 20 about the life and death of former Times sportswriter Mike Penner incorrectly spelled Amy LaCoe's last name as LeCoe. In addition, the story should have said that Penner's father died 12 years ago, not when Penner was 12 years old; that Penner met his future wife, Lisa Dillman, when she worked at the Detroit News, not at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune; and that the couple wed in 1986, not 1987.
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